INEFFECTIVE REDACTION IN DISCLOSED DOCUMENTS: A WARNING TO ALL LITIGATORS (AND LOCAL AUTHORITIES…)
Sometimes documents can be redacted. The judgment of Mr Justice Pepperall in London Borough of Lambeth v AM (Judgment No. 2)  EWHC 186 (QB) shows that great care must be taken in “redacted” documents provided electronically.
The judge was considering an injunction to prevent the defendant making use of redacted documents. The defendant had been sent redacetd documents, however that “redaction” was easily overridden.
THE JUDGMENT ON THIS ISSUE
LM was born on 4 July 2016. On 6 January 2018, the girl’s aunt, HJ, made a confidential report to the Children’s Services department at the London Borough of Lambeth purporting to report her concerns about LM’s development. LM was then 18 months old and HJ reported, among other matters, that she was underweight, that her diet remained too dependent on breastfed milk rather than solids and that she was not being properly encouraged to walk or crawl.
Lambeth contacted the parents in order to discuss the reported concerns. The child’s father, AM, declined to engage with the authority and the case was swiftly closed. Subsequently, the father made a subject access request for copies of the files held by Lambeth. On 29 November 2018, Lambeth provided AM with a copy of its file in respect of LM. Mindful of its duty to maintain the confidentiality of the referral, Lambeth attempted to redact any details that would reveal HJ’s identity. It did so electronically without realising that anyone reasonably proficient in the use of Adobe would be able to defeat the redaction and restore the original text. AM did so and used the documents obtained from Lambeth to write a letter before action accusing HJ of malicious defamation, breach of confidence and harassment.
The judge went on to grant the claimant an injunction preventing the claimant making use of the redacted information.